November 4th, 2008 is a date that will forever be etched into the history books of The United States Of America. It was on this day that the people of America voted into office the first African-American US President. Barack Hussein Obama won the election in a landslide, a victory that, just a few short months earlier, no-one saw coming, but a look at his life will show that it should not have been such a big surprise.
Born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to an interracial couple. His Mother, Ann Dunham, met his Father Barack Obama Sr., a Kenyan exchange student, while attending the University of Hawaii. Obama Sr. played little or no part in his son’s life before he was killed in a car accident in 1982. Dunham went on to marry Lolo Seotoro, an Indonesian native, and the family was forced to move to there after Soeharto was elected to power and decreed that all native Indonesians studying abroad be made to return home.
The young Obama returned to Hawaii in 1967, taking up residence with his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, became a major driving force in his life, and is the person he credits most with his drive and success. In a cruel twist of fate, Madelyn passed away, at home, a mere 2 days before her grandson’s proudest moment. Obama’s Mother also missed the historic event. She spent most of her life in Indonesia before returning to her native Hawaii in 1994, only to pass away from ovarian cancer in 1995.
Upon graduating high school, Obama spent 2 years at Occidental College in Los Angeles before heading east to New York City, where he completed his B.A. at Columbia in 1983. He spent 4 more years in New York, working for a couple of different public interest corporations, before striking out for Chicago and a position as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization. He spent 3 successful years there, and then decided to take a break from the business world, travelling through Europe, and visiting Kenya to meet his extended fraternal family.
Upon returning to the US, Obama enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1988, and went on to graduate magna cum laude in 1988. During his time at Harvard, he was selected as editor of the Harvard Law Review, the first African American to do so. His appointment gained a lot of attention with the National media, and the resulting “fame” led to a publishing deal and a fellowship position at the University of Chicago Law School. During his 12 year tenure at the school he met and married Michelle Robinson, and the couple went on to have 2 children, Malia Ann and Sasha.
In 1996, Obama decided to test the political waters by entering into the Illinois Senate race which he won, going on to be re-elected on 2 more occasions. During his time in office devoted much of his time to ethics and health care reform, causes which gained him support from both sides. Around 2002, he began to think about running for US Senate, and 2 years later officially resigned from his Illinois position. The turning point in his campaign may have been when he was chosen to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, a speech that gained him national notoriety and made him a household name.
He went on to win a seat on the US Senate, and was pegged by many to be a possible Presidential candidate in the 2012 election, but he surprised everyone by announcing his candidacy in February of 2007. Obama’s Presidential campaign was a stunning success, particularly in his fundraising efforts, where, instead of going after the traditional big donations from corporations and special interest groups, he targeted smaller donations which quickly added up, far outnumbering that of his opponents. One by one, the candidates dropped until only Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton remained. In a tough, sometimes personal, battle the two went head to head down to the wire until June 3, 2008 when he reached the threshold of nominees required for nomination.
Obama quickly named Joe Biden as his running mate, and the two men hit the campaign trail promoting a message of change. Massive crowds flocked to wherever Obama was speaking, drawing young and old alike, the huge crowds giving the feeling of a rock concert rather than a political speech. His message resonated with the crowds and in doing so he steadily built an unassailable lead in the opinion polls.
Barack Obama has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Hawaii, and on that journey he has made a difference in the lives of a large number of people, passing each test and obstacle placed in his path. Time will only tell if he will be able to carry on that legacy during his tenure as President of the United States of America.